The Top 2 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Wedding Photographer

Ask yourself one question and pose another question to your prospective photographer.

Written by: Berit Bizjak

Images by Berit Bride and Groom on Dance Floor
You’re engaged. It’s time to plan, and there are so many things to think about! Remember learning the 5 W’s in elementary school? Well, they apply here too: the who, where, when, what, why, and how of wedding planning. Where will I get married? When do I want this celebration to happen? What do I want the theme of this day to be? Why are there so many people on this initial invite list? Okay, perhaps that is not the case – but more often than not there is always a little bit of shock when you first compile all the names of the people near and dear that you want to celebrate with. And last but not least, How do I want to remember this day?

The Players of Wedding Planning.
You will engage a number of professionals to help pull off your wedding. From the dress and the music to the cake, florals, and décor, each decision requires a great amount of attention and detail to create the atmosphere you envision. But in the end, what you will have when the day is done are your images.

The majority of the images taken by a great wedding photographer will be moments you didn’t even know happened. As you are reciting your vows, listening intently to a speech, dancing on the dance floor or cutting your cake, moments are occurring all around you that should be well documented. These moments – the intimate, the candid, the real – are what round out the story of your day. A great wedding photographer will have spent thousands of hours documenting over the course of a career and will instinctively know what to do with their camera from a technical aspect, and on your day their responsibility will be spending the majority of their time seeking out moments.

What to Ask Yourself.
The photography from your wedding will be one of the lasting artifacts of the day that you and your partner shared vows and committed to a lifetime together. With the onslaught of smartphones and tablets, photography can be practiced by anyone these days, but it’s only mastered by few. You may have a friend or family member that is “good”. They may even offer to document the day for you. So you need to ask yourselves a very important question, “How important is wedding photography to us?”

For the couples we speak with, wedding photography is very important. If you are one of those couples, we’ve compiled a few hard-hitting questions to help you during the interview process and selection of a wedding photographer. In this piece we will tackle the number one question that we feel is the most important to ask.

What to Ask Your Photographer.
The number one question to ask 
a prospective wedding photographer is: Is wedding photography your full time job?

Why it matters: Great wedding photography requires a tremendous amount of time, resource, and dedication. The best wedding photographers don’t just show up, snap some shots, and call it a day. The best and most experienced wedding photographers will dedicate roughly 70 hours to each and every wedding. You may think, “How is that possible? My wedding day in full is only 15 hours!”

Here is where the time goes:

Before the wedding: Even before the wedding day, a great photographer will devote 10-20 hours to each couple. It begins with an initial meeting, so the photographer can get to know you as individuals and as a couple while developing an understanding of the needs and wants for your wedding photography. Meetings tend to last about two hours and occur at least twice. In addition, many couples opt to have an engagement or pre-wedding photo session. These sessions last about two hours and require an additional 10-12 hours of post-processing and preparing the photography. You are now up to 16-18 hours and the wedding hasn’t even happened.

The wedding day: On the day of the wedding, a true professional photographer will never limit his or her time. Limiting time also limits creativity and the ability to capture every important moment of your day. Therefore, the best photographers will likely be with you from the very beginning of the day, documenting you getting ready with close family and friends. They will continue to document throughout the day and won’t end until the band breaks down at the end of the night. The goal on that day is to capture every moment to help you see the story created on that day from beginning to end. A typical wedding day is 15 hours. Fifteen plus sixteen is thirty-one! Doing the math?

After the wedding: The days and weeks following each wedding is actually where the largest amount of a photographer's time and resources are spent. This post-wedding activity receives an additional 40 hours at minimum. These hours are dedicated to reviewing each and every image taken (typically 2,500-3,000 images), optimizing, processing, and preparing them into sustainable art to be preserved for a lifetime.

Forty plus thirty equals seventy! Give or take another ten hours depending on the couple and event, great photography easily covers upwards of eighty hours per couple.

No Opportunity for Do-Overs!
For everyday photos, you may be fine with a neighbor, a friend or relative, or a general non­-professional photographer. However, when it comes to those “once­ in­ a­ lifetime” moments – when you’ve got one shot at getting it right – you want to make sure the person behind the camera is a proven full-time professional wedding photographer. There is no opportunity for a  “do-over” on your wedding day, and no room for #photofail.

Remember, when selecting a wedding photographer to ask two questions: Ask yourselves, “How important is wedding photography to us?” and then ask your prospective wedding photographer, “Is wedding photography your full-time job?”

Opening photo by Images by Berit, Inc. Berit Bizjak is a NYC based, certified professional photographer and wedding photography has been her full-time job since 1998. To see more expert advice articles on wedding photography, click here.  

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